Thursday, December 14, 2006

Another Homecoming

Arriving back in Lebanon yet again is less exciting and more deja vu each time I am on break. This time, the dullness of my hometown is compounded by the total awesomeness (and lack of a close-by replacement) of New York.

I'm afraid that I'm destined to be THAT girl who's like: "Oh my God! Well you think THAT sandwich is good?? AT SIXTH AND TWELFTH IN MANHATTAN I ONCE HAD THIS SANDWICH THAT RIVALED GOD." yackyackyackyack.... It's like when I came back from studying abroad in the south of France and everything was about the Mediterranean and apricots, except this time it's all about the East River and pizza. And oh-mi-god-lemme-tellya-bout-the-pizza-!!-pepperoni-like-you-wouldn't-believe-sister-!!.

And let's face it: I really hated New York for the first month or so I was there. HATED IT.

The crowds. The smells. The subway stabbings. The drug dealing elderly women on my stoop. The cooped-up feeling of a boyfriend-shared, one-bedroom apartment. The yelling on your corner at 2 am. The elbowing for room on Sixth Avenue. The Staten Island accent. Did I mention the crowds?

I once spent the entirety of forty blocks underground on an express train that was crawling more slowly than the local tracks with my nose pressed into one man's armpit and my ass pressed into another man's palm.

I hated New York.

But like every other sucker who moves to the city, I fell for it.

After the sun goes down and the sidewalks radiate heat from the day, a breeze blows in from the Atlantic and it's hard not to love it. By dusk, the city rushes quietly home--by bus, by car--and the din of clinking flatware against white porcelain plates plays like distant hands on ivory keys in Carnegie. Walking along 82nd, the squeaking friction between a wine glass and the terry cloth drying it is louder than your footsteps while the old man holding both these items stares at you through his thick glasses from his fourth floor apartment and you think that it's nice he doesn't live any higher than the fourth floor if he absolutely must live in a ritzy apartment on the Upper West Side and that you have maybe seen him on the subway with a camel-colored briefcase and you know there's only the one wine glass and that he has dined alone.

When the weather cools down, the leaves change color--setting the city afire in oranges and golds. And you love that even after months of becoming a jaded New Yorker, the sight of the Chrysler Building's triangulated, impossible tip first buzzing and then bursting into light like an inverted firecracker against a dark canvas sky still takes your breath away.

There's a lot wrong with New York, but the real problem is that there's too many things right with it. You can't always love it, but you can't leave it either. If you do, you can hear the chk-chk, chk-chk of the subway, the clacking of stilettos against pavement, the honking of taxis and the fizzing, crackling electricity of the city as it turns on its lights. It's too much to bear and you know you'll be back.


Thursday, December 7, 2006

A Christmas Struggle

When I was barely leaving toddler-dom, I asked my mom every night for over a year to read me 'Twas the Night Before Christmas before bed. I loved that book.

The copy I had seemed old to me, which made it special. Its cover was hard and big--I couldn't cover it with both my hands spread on its surface. Like most kids, the idea of this man who lived forever and just made presents all year consumed me. It made sense that he existed. Who wouldn't love just giving gifts for a living and having an army of elves and cavalary of reindeer at your disposal?

But how was Santa the one who got the gig? Had nobody been giving gifts before then? Did Santa start Christmas? No, the baby Jesus did. I had that book, too. Even at this young of an age, the basic commercial and spiritual clash of Christmas was baffling me.

'That's tacky,' my mom said when the apartment across the street from our house put up a 'Happy X-Mas' light-up sign. I asked why and she explained that the 'X' took all the nice things out of Christmas--that it made Christmas all about buying stuff and not about being with family and friends. 'Why bother putting up the sign if it doesn't even spell the whole word out? It's missing the real message.'

So I would return to my studies, poring over the famous Christmas Eve text, looking for clues. After my mom shut the door, I'd pick the book back up from its spot on my bookshelf and, unable to read the majority of the words, I would stare at the pictures. There had to be something I was missing, and once I found it, the whole Santa-Jesus-Christmas thing would become clear to me. Instead, the pictures--out of the context of the story itself--became more confusing.

Most confusing was the last picture in the book. Santa had finished his big night--the gifts delivered, the cookies eaten, the milk drank. But here on the last page, without any words to explain, was Santa--lying out in the sun, stretched onto a beach chair with sunscreen slathered thick and white on his nose. He was holding a drink with a little umbrella in it like the ones that I could get at TGIFriday's with my soda if I asked the waiter nicely. He was on vacation.

A slew of questions arose: Did he stop at home or did he leave the reindeer on their own to get back to the Pole? Where's his suit and does he always wear yellow swim trunks when not in his suit? Where's Mrs. Claus? Does she get a vacation, or do she and the elves slave over the next year's toys beginning on December 26th without any help from Santa? When does his vacation end, does it last a week or until December 23rd of the next year?

After a year, I got tired of trying to figure it out. I had learned to read almost all of the words in the book, I had stared at the pictures for hours on end, and nothing was becoming more clear. Santa, I guessed, would remain a mystery.

Perhaps driving this Christmas quest was my personal relationship with Jesus. I don't, however, mean 'personal relationship' in the way that a Catholic grandmother might mean it. I really mean 'relationship,' to the point where at age four, I had a crush on the Biblical figure and wanted him to be my boyfriend. (Note: Jesus not always this air-blown.) Of all my imaginary playmates ("Charlaines" my five-dollar pink bear bought at KB Toys, Barbie, Grover from Sesame Street, and Elmo too--until I found out he was a 'he' and not a 'she' and I felt terribly cheated), Jesus was my favorite. He was the most real and the nicest.

My friendship with Jesus came crashing down around me my last year in preschool. On a sticky August afternoon, Jesus and I were playing outside under my favorite tree in my backyard. My dad had made the swing--a totally, utterly rough tree swing with rope that would give even the toughest sailors callouses and a flat, hard, butt-numbing board for a seat. I loved it. So on this afternoon, I--willing to be a good friend and share--was pushing Jesus on the swing since it was His turn. Then, something happened. It might have been because I hadn't been spending much time lately looking at the illustrations in my Mom's childhood Bible, or maybe because I had waited so long before I did share the swing with Him, or maybe I was just pushing too hard... But suddenly, unexpected, Jesus flew back much farther than expected and I was hit in the face.

I fell onto my back, knocking my head on the ground. Worst of all was my chin--scraped by either His foot or the butt-numbing swing itself. I ran inside, crying and confused. While I sat in her lap, my mom put Neosporin, gauze and medical tape on my chin and I explained to her what had happened. Through my tears, I made a vow. I was done playing with Jesus.

It wasn't that I didn't believe in Jesus, I concluded, I just wasn't friends with Him anymore. I went back to studying my 'Twas the Night text. Sadly, Santa still wasn't providing explanations or answers as he smiled over his tropical drink. Even more devastating was when, clued in by context about a month after my break-up with Jesus, I found out that Santa was not real.

The details of this horrible revelation I do not remember. According to my mom, I asked for the truth in the car while on an errand drive with her. I asked timidly and in a way that my Mom took to mean that I had figured it all out, and even if she couldn't pull over on Ohio Route 42 to talk about it, she should be honest with me then and there. After she said that I was right, Santa didn't exist, she tried to explain that the spirit of Santa Claus was a real thing while I cried over my second loss. I've done a pretty great job totally repressing this memory. I do remember, however, that afterward I put the 'Twas book on the shelf indefinitely, deciding I was too old for Santa, and feeling more confused than ever about what Christmas really meant.

Things have changed in the last eighteen years. I no longer resent Santa for not being real and I'm not grudging on Jesus for that scrape he gave me on the swing. I don't keep a copy of 'Twas the Night Before Christmas nor of The Holy Bible bedside. I don't believe in Santa, and I'm pretty sure Jesus was an okay guy, but not the son of God or anything.

Some children in France are taught that Santa was
actually St. Nicholas, patron saint of children, sailors and pawnbrokers (go figure). On a cold night, three lost children are taken into a warm cottage by a butcher who feeds them heavily and then puts them in bed. Once they fall asleep, he then chops them into bits and pieces, tossing their sliced and now salted remains into a barrel for later. Seven years pass and St. Nicholas happens along the cottage after hearing the sliced and salted remains of the children cry for help, pieces the kids back together and informs the butcher he can repent for his sins and, well, God will set him free. In other versions of the story, he grabs the butcher by the heels and shoves him in the barrel for all eternity (forever and ever, amen), putting a new spin on French children's images of Hell.

I'm not sure at which point Nicholas went from being Saint to being Santa and moved from France to the North Pole, but I'm okay with this story. Granted, it's bloody and dated (from the 1500s actually), but in it, Santa and God coexist and fight together in an epic battle of good versus evil. So I may not be sure how commercially and/or spiritually I want to spend my Christmas this year--the ratio of my time spent mall shopping and knelt praying now escapes me--but either way, they both beat the third alternative--spending seven years salty and in pieces at the bottom of a barrel. And I suppose that's a good reason to celebrate.
Happy Holidays!


Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Exhausted reflection

I'm not feeling particularly creative or witty in the last few days. This could be for a number of reasons:

1.) I took the LSAT on Saturday and am still slowly returning to the state of a normally-functioning human being. More on that later.
2.) This is my last week at work, and I'm depleted. Yoga is just wearing me down right now, and we all know that's not what is supposed to happen.
3.) It's cold.
4.) I don't have any sweet-looking outfits that put sass in my... well... writing.

In case you're just joining us, I've been in New York for six months now. Correction: Six months as of Saturday. I arrived to Harlem, New York on Saturday, June 10, 2006 where I spent the next three months working at TOH at T. I then moved at the end of August to Brooklyn where I have lived for the next three months and worked at YL at R. I will leave very close to exactly six months later, on Tuesday, December 12th--two days after my 22nd birthday.

While I very much hated this city for the first month or so, I've learned that I love it. My time in New York has been less of just a job stint in the city and more of a study abroad experience. This may be a little saccharine and expected, but I really do think I've matured a lot in my time here. I've discovered a lot about what I love about writing, what I hate about magazines, and who I am in general. I've also become something of a New Yorker--albeit, a New Yorker who loves Chicago more...maybe.

Strangely enough, as much about New York still remains a mystery to me (Alphabet City, Williamsburg, Queens...), I still feel like I know more about NYC than I do about Chicago. And I also hate to admit it, but I have grown to love the interconnected incestuousness of New York, complemented by all of its social circle websites that list where the latest art gallery openings and open bars are. I'm still on newsletter mailings for Chicago stuff, but when I receive the Trib's Metromix in my inbox, I roll my eyes because it's yet another week of "Best Bartender" or "Your Pics," and not the everchanging social scene of New York.

Now, I'm not complaining about my social life in Chicago versus my social life in New York (okay, maybe a little), but the vastness of New York eventually got to me. Granted, it took moving to the baby-infested borough of Brooklyn to do that. (Goddamn, I just love their rosy little faces.)

However, I've just come to realize that maybe I won't just be a Chicago bum all my life, moving from the Andersonville/Southport to Near North/Lincoln Park to the 'burbs, as I've always thought would happen. Maybe other things lie before me. And I guess that's pretty cool.


Monday, December 4, 2006

From Brian Doyle's The Hummingbird, to be published next year

Consider the hummingbird for a long moment. A hummingbird's heart beats ten times a second. A hummingbird's heart is the size of a pencil eraser. A hummingbird's heart is a lot of the hummingbird. Joyas voladores, flying jewels, the first white explorers in the Americas called them, and the white men had never seen such creatures, for hummingbirds came into the world only in the Americas, nowhere else in the universe, more than three hundred species of them whirring and zooming and nectaring in hummer time zones nine times removed from ours, their hearts hammering faster than we could clearly hear if we pressed our elephantine ears to their infinitesimal chests.

Each one visits a thousand flowers a day. They can dive at sixty miles an hour. They can fly backwards. They can fly more than five hundred miles without pausing to rest. But when they rest they come close to death: on frigid nights, or when they are starving, they retreat into torpor, their metabolic rate slowing to a fifteenth of their normal sleep rate, their hearts sludging nearly to a halt, barely beating, and if they are not soon warmed, if they do not soon find that which is sweet, their hearts grow cold, and they cease to be. Consider for a moment those hummingbirds who did not open their eyes again today, this very day, in the Americas: bearded helmetcrests and booted racket-tails, violet-tailed sylphs and violet-capped woodnymphs, crimson topazes and purple-crowned fairies, red-tailed comets and amethyst woodstars, rainbow-bearded thornbills and glittering-bellied emeralds, velvet-purple coronets and golden-bellied star-frontlets, fiery-tailed awlbills and Andean hillstars, spatuletails and pufflegs, each the most amazing thing you have never seen, each thunderous wild heart the size of an infant's fingernail, each mad heart silent, a brilliant music stilled.

Hummingbirds, like all flying birds but more so, have incredible enormous immense ferocious metabolisms. To drive those metabolisms they have race-car hearts that eat oxygen at an eye-popping rate. Their hearts are built of thinner, leaner fibers than ours. Their arteries are stiffer and more taut. They have more mitochondria in their heart muscles -- anything to gulp more oxygen. Their hearts are stripped to the skin for the war against gravity and inertia, the mad search for food, the insane idea of flight. The price of their ambition is a life closer to death; they suffer heart attacks and aneurysms and ruptures more than any other living creature. It's expensive to fly. You burn out. You fry the machine. You melt the engine. Every creature on earth has approximately two billion heartbeats to spend in a lifetime. You can spend them slowly, like a tortoise, and live to be two hundred years old, or you can spend them fast, like a hummingbird, and live to be two years old.

The biggest heart in the world is inside the blue whale. It weighs more than seven tons. It's as big as a room. It is a room, with four chambers. A child could walk around in it, head high, bending only to step through the valves. The valves are as big as the swinging doors in a saloon. This house of a heart drives a creature a hundred feet long. When this creature is born it is twenty feet long and weighs four tons. It is waaaaay bigger than your car. It drinks a hundred gallons of milk from its mama every day and gains two hundred pounds a day and when it is seven or eight years old it endures an unimaginable puberty and then it essentially disappears from human ken, for next to nothing is known of the mating habits, travel patterns, diet, social life, language, social structure, diseases, spirituality, wars, stories, despairs, and arts of the blue whale. There are perhaps ten thousand blue whales in the world, living in every ocean on earth, and of the largest mammal who ever lived we know nearly nothing. But we know this: the animals with the largest hearts in the world generally travel in pairs, and their penetrating moaning cries, their piercing yearning tongue, can be heard underwater for miles and miles.

Mammals and birds have hearts with four chambers. Reptiles and turtles have hearts with three chambers. Fish have hearts with two chambers. Insects and mollusks have hearts with one chamber. Worms have hearts with one chamber, although they may have as many as eleven single-chambered hearts. Unicellular bacteria have no hearts at all; but even they have fluid eternally in motion, washing from one side of the cell to the other, swirling and whirling. No living being is without interior liquid motion. We all churn inside.

So much held in a heart in a lifetime. So much held in a heart in a day, an hour, a moment. We are utterly open with no one, in the end -- not mother and father, not wife or husband, not lover, not child, not friend. We open windows to each but we live alone in the house of the heart. Perhaps we must. Perhaps we could not bear to be so naked, for fear of a constantly harrowed heart. When young we think there will come one person who will savor and sustain us always; when we are older we know this is the dream of a child, that all hearts finally are bruised and scarred, scored and torn, repaired by time and will, patched by force of character, yet fragile and rickety forevermore, no matter how ferocious the defense and how many bricks you bring to the wall. You can brick up your heart as stout and tight and hard and cold and impregnable as you possibly can and down it comes in an instant, felled by a woman's second glance, a child's apple breath, the shatter of glass in the road, the words I have something to tell you, a cat with a broken spine dragging itself into the forest to die, the brush of your mother's papery ancient hand in a thicket of your hair, the memory of your father's voice early in the morning echoing from the kitchen where he is making pancakes for his children.


Thursday, November 30, 2006

Intolerable Pretense, or How I Learned to Love the Soybean

My favorite thing about working at a company like R. is the absolutely-positively-necessary pretense of being one of those healthily-anorexic (I eat a meal a day!), caffeine-free, vegan-only, marathon-running do-gooders. For the first two weeks I worked here, I skipped lunch because no one left their desks between noon and two o'clock to eat anything. Were the Sunchips in the kitchen really enough? I wondered. It turns out they were (if you had like four bags a day), but then at week 3, I retaliated and started frequenting my beloved 39th Street Au Bon Pain again. God love those chocolate-covered macaroons.

As if the bare-bones organic kitchen were not a fun place already, it only gets better when visiting advertisers meet with the publishing staff. Platters of lunches briefly grace the soy-laden fridge--delicious cheese and (red!) meat-filled lunches, succulent chocolate-covered strawberry lunches, mouth-watering cookie and fudge-toffee lunches. When the leftovers hit the kitchen counter (and let's face it, nobody's eating at these meetings anyway, so these platters are usually still stacked with mountains cheddar), word spreads quietly and quickly, like mono in high school. Within moments, the goods are gone. Disappointed, emaciated women in skinny, fair-trade jeans wander the halls, knowing that if their cubicles were only a couple yards closer to the kitchen, they too would have had a square of cheese or almond cookie.

I once walked into the R. kitchen to find two women standing awkwardly, looking confused and as if their kitchen had somehow changed in ways incomprehensible to them. That's when I saw it--two twenty-ounce bottles of Coca-Cola. They weren't even Diet! There they were, two veritably, sugarily, 180-calorie proof bottles of the pure stuff, black and bubbly. The women stared.

'Where do you think it came from?' the first one asked.

'I've never seen something like that here before,' responded the second.

The first woman picked one of the bottles up and turned it around, making sure it really was what she thought. Apparently she figured it out because she put it down quickly and stepped away as if it were a caffeinated bomb, ready to go off if you held it for too long.

'Well, that's strange,' she concluded.

I grabbed a cookie and trotted back to my cubicle, realizing half-way back that I had forgotten to grab a fresh bottle of Poland Spring. When I returned to the kitchen, the Cokes were gone, and so were the women.

More embarassing still is when the ad and pub execs don't have the decency to stash the leftovers in a discrete place and instead leave them sitting in an open conference room. (Let me quickly add that these conference rooms are without walls and tout big glass windows on all sides in some bizarre Brady-Bunch's-vision-of-the-future design that I'm sure looked good fifteen years ago.) So, all of us on the outside can clearly see that mound of macademia nuts and fudge on display, just beyond the museum-like glass walls.

And that's how R. reduces grown men and women to children with their noses pressed against the window, mouths watering and hearts breaking. Red-faced, editors young and old quickly shuffle into the empty conference room, grab a cookie and run out with their heads down. Yes, I did see you, and no, I won't tell anyone.

Perhaps R. is just trying to compensate for the unhealthy habits of other publishing companies where the caffeinated dregs of coffee are happily slurped and extra-buttery popcorn happily jumps about in a running microwave while an editor munches on Doritos. After all, these were the companies of men who ordered their 3 o'clock scotch and sodas on Fridays from the beverage cart as it tooled around the cubes and whose ordered lunches were Salisbury steaks and not edamame. Then again, R. isn't the company selling off chunks of their properties so maybe they've got a good thing going. Either way, I'll be the intern hawking the kitchen until the next meeting is done.


Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Another Angry New Yorker

New York anger has surpassed all bounds which I once previously thought existed. Granted, I've become quite the angry New Yorker, but I would have never expected what happened to me on Sunday to happen.

After a stress-riddled weekend, I--believe it or not--looked forward to taking yet another practice LSAT on Sunday evening to cap off my weekend. Unfortunately, because Kaplan is a bunch of half-asses, their Brooklyn center is in The Middle of Nowhere, Coney Island. This meant finding a convenient way of getting there with time to spare. Too bad this is New York.

I called my car service--Arecibo in Brooklyn--at 3:45 PM to get to my 4:30 PM test. "Ten minutes tops," they told me. I waited.

4 o'clock rolled around, then 4:05. I started to anxiously watch my one-block street, jumping every time I heard a car coming down the road and then sadly plopping back down in front of the window to wait more. I tried to call Arecibo to make sure I wasn't forgotten, but no surprise--their line was busy.

This is always a bad sign as it means that not only is there someone already ordering a car and on the line, but at least a dozen other people are listening to the same bad Spanish elevator music as you. Finally, at 4:20 PM, I got someone on the line and griped, 'THERE WAS SUPPOSED TO BE A CAR HERE 25 MINUTES AGO.' 'Yes, one minute,' the same monotone dude who always answers the phone said.

Yeah, about five minutes later, a beige van pulls up. At this point, I have five minutes to get to the godforsaken tip of Brooklyn (a 15 minute car ride at its shortest). I've neglected to mention why this test was so important. Let me tangentially tirade on another topic, Kaplan.

I signed up for this LSAT course, knowing I'd be on my TM, knowing I wouldn't necessarily have a big social life (I was wrong about that), and knowing (maybe) that I want to, at some point in the next five years, apply for law school. Why NOT do it now that I'm working a day job that's only an internship, right?

Unfortunately for me, the problems with Kaplan started right away. I signed up for an eight-week course that was cancelled and had to switch into a six-week class instead. My next big disappointment came when I realized that my teacher--Marion--didn't know how to teach. Aside from her poor communication skills (something I thought you needed as a lawyer), she cancelled classes, randomly, and rescheduled them for inconvenient times like Sundays at 9 am.

Then, after ten of our thirteen sessions, Marion decided to quit and didn't offer up an explanation for her sudden departure.

Nick, my new teacher, introduced himself and realized quite quickly that our class had become remedial thanks Marion's efforts. We did some crash-course catch-up when Nick taught us, and many of us realized we hadn't even received all of the benefits of Kaplan we're supposed to.

For example, practice test scores have yet to be posted. Our finished homework doesn't show online. Marion wouldn't bring back explanations of tests. Then, after one class with Nick--our "new teacher", another new kid who looks like he may or may not be seventeen showed up to teach us and introduced himself as our "new teacher."

My Kaplan experience has been so terrible that I've decided to take their "Higher Score Guarantee" and take the course again in the winter in Evanston and then take the LSAT again after that. I'm pretty much convinced I suck at the LSAT and that my mediocre instruction had something to do with it. In the meantime, I'm doing all I can to catch up to where I should be AND doing all of my homework required to cash in on my "Higher Score Guarantee."

Which takes me back to this Sunday afternoon, where I absolutely needed to attend this test in order to get my guarantee and if I did not get there in time for it to be proctored, I would not get to take it, would not get a score for it, and thus, would not be allowed to either get a refund or more classes.

So there I am on Sunday afternoon, oscillating between cursing the driver, his company and the traffic under my breath and practicing yoga-meditation techniques to calm myself down. This, I can assure you, is counterproductive. As I begin to feel less worried (I had called Kaplan and they said I'd have until 4:45 to get there to take the test), my driver misses the turn and plunges bumper first into worse traffic. I'm irate and quietly keeping it to myself. I will not, I vow, pay this guy. And I will never, ever, ever take Arecibo fucking Car Service again.

Another tanget--if you're not familiar with car services in the greater New York metropolitan area, there are two kinds of car service--the good kind and the bad kind. The good kind usually is a little bit expensive and will get you places on time. The bad kind doesn't always get you places on time, but it is cheaper and I always call the shots with how much I pay them. I do not, for example, ask, 'How much will that be?' I learned this after my first experience where I got charged twice the price for a ride. Since then, I've made Arecibo pay for their erring ways and give the drivers what they get. I tip really well when drivers are 1) Nice, 2) Don't swerve at other cars and/or pedestrians, 3) Don't play Hispa-rap super-fucking loud, 4) Don't drive patched-together ghetto vans with stickers all over the windshield to the point where you can't see out of it.

So as we pull up to the KAPLAN Center at 4:50, I ask my driver (who had been listening to Ricky Martin the WHOLE DAMN ride) if he has a ten.

'Why?' he asks.

I only have a twenty, I tell him.

'THIS,' he says, 'is a FIFTEEN dollar ride, MISS.'

Yeah, I say, and I am MORE than TWENTY minutes late because you and your company didn't get me here on time.

'I,' he says, 'am ONLY a driver.' (Here, I see his point, but all these drivers have two things in common: 1) They suck, 2) They work for the same company. So, no deal.)

And? I ask him, You are the driver and you also got lost and you're making me more late for something I don't have time to miss.

'It's fifteen dollars and I'm just a driver, MISS,' he repeats snottily.

Well, I can give you ten or I can get out of the car and never use your service again, I say. (Now, in the moment, I knew haggling for five dollars is not a huge deal, but was more concerned about getting to my test than anything and was not willing to give up even a buck to someone who had made me more than a half hour late.)

'NO,' he said, picking up his little radio as if he's going to tattle on me to HQ.

Well, I'm never calling your service again, I say and move to open the sliding van door.

As I start to step out of the van, Mr. Crazy-Ricky-Martin-Lovin'-Motherfucker starts TO DRIVE THE VAN!!

Here I am--half-out the van and it's moving! Cars honk and he swerves me toward the next parked car. I throw myself out and as the momentum of the stopping van thrusts forward, the van door SLIDES SHUT ON MY ARM.

'Are you crazy, MISS?' he yells at me.
Am I crazy!? I half-gasp back. YOU just drove with me OUT OF THE CAR.

At this point, I settled on the idea of either reporting him or suing his ass and threw him the twenty and yelled, GIVE ME FIVE AND EXPECT TO BE REPORTED. I HOPE THAT'S WORTH FIVE DOLLARS TO YOU!

I ran into the Kaplan test, where I took my test, totally frazzled, and shook out of anger the entire three and a half hours.


When I related this story to my mom, she said it's not worth haggling and "engaging with strangers." Unfortunately, I'm pretty sure that's just how New York works. I love my mom, but Duluth, Minnesota and hell, even Chicago, pales in comparison to the seething, dirty anger of New Yorkers.

I saw a middle-aged woman claw a teenager in the face just the other day in Grand Central as the teenager pulled the woman's hair. Somehow, as I passed the two women, I figured the middle-aged woman was justified in her anger even if not her actions. The teenager looked like a touristy yip-yap type that says 'crunchy' and likes Ricky Martin. She maybe even drives a beige van for Arecibo Car Service.


Friday, November 17, 2006

New York = New Angry

Hey Dude With the Cellphone Camera!

Do you think I didn't see you take that picture of me, you creepy motherfucker? Aside from the fact that you weren't even slick about your dirty-perv ways, you also bumped into someone after taking it. At least watch where you're going, smut-face. We don't want your fucking perv germs rubbing off on us. The subway is bad enough.

Here's a tip, you fucking novice. Next time, don't stare back and forth from the screen of the camera to me while you try to frame the shot right. This is perversion, not art. Don't waste your time on aesthetics. Also, turn the sound effect off your cameraphone. The chk-chkahh! of your fancy ass phone's "shutter" is something of a giveaway. Get a clue, cleverless cockface.

Oh, and if it looks like I'm reaching for my bag in your picture, it's only because you barely escaped a macing followed by a middle finger through your eye. Take that and get off on it. Twat.


Saturday, October 14, 2006

That time I broke my back in half dancing and slamming into people harder than ever before

Here are the first five fist-pumping minutes of the Basement Jaxx show I saw at Webster Hall on Wednesday. Simply put, my life will never be the same. (Also, at 3 minutes and 40 seconds, she is so pointing at me.)


Just a few thoughts:

I hate Stephen King's self-promoting, pretentious writing. Shoot me in the face before you tell me what a fucking metaphor is, freaky bastard.

Friday nights in cleaning an apartment really are not so bad. They're kind of gratifying.

I strangely am not broken up over being on TM and not in EV-IL. What does this mean? Why am I becoming seduced by New York? That bitch.

Today I saw this crazy dude walking the tunnel between the BDFV and 7 stations at 42nd St./Bryant Park. He was playing with those Rennaissance juggling sticks as he walked, taking up too much space. From a distance I spied two other crazy people--an old guy in a 65-year-old ladies' running jacket and his super-plump wife who was wearing reflective sunglasses, tight-ass black leggings and a huge fanny pack. Much to my delight, the crazy couple knew the crazy dude and exclaimed, "Hey, Sticks!" And my day was made by Sticks and his friends.

I like reading again. Thank God.

I have gotten thrifty in New York. Minus the drinking and going out. That's never thrifty. But today I bought probably $70 worth of beauty products for $13. I bought almost a dozen books and two records for $7 two weeks ago. And tomorrow I may or may not attend a set-up-a-booth-and-trade-stuff-for-free-that-you-don't-want-anymore fest. Awesome.

Oh, and Amy's visiting this weekend. I may or may not rub shoulders with the bridal fashion industry. Sweet?


Saturday, October 7, 2006

Crispy MTA Monkey Faces

LL Cool J was in my office this morning. Although I did not speak with him, I did get to listen in on his meeting with about 25 R employees as he confirmed that he not only still exists, but apparently is writing books for R.

Also: Does the fact that I heard LL Cool J say "crispy" as an adjective when the only other time I've heard that phrase was from some 16-year-old girls in La Guardia legitimize the girls' saying it, or demonstrate how lame LL really is? Thoughts?

Finally, meditations on New York subway twats:

How is it that if I harrass an MTA employee, I could spend up to seven years in jail, but it's okay for MTA employees to make monkey-jerk faces at me?

Granted, this mocking doesn't happen all the time, but it's happened enough for me to be pissed.

It started this summer on one occassion when I ran for the B train at 116th. I swiped my card as the doors began to close and hurled myself toward the first car. I met the eyes of the conductor who stared me down as I went face-first into the closed doors. I stepped back and he continued to stare at me, dead-eyed and unforgiving. Like that, he started the B back up and took off toward 110th, making me ten minutes late for work.

Then there was the time at 15th Street/Prospect Park while I waited for a Manhattan-bound F. While I leaned against a pole toward the middle of the platform, a Coney Island-bound F pulled into the station. Already feeling irked and personally affronted by the arrival of this beach-bound fun train, I glanced over at the conductor in the sixth car to direct my anger toward the individual driving this enemy train. To my horror, he gave me the overly-exaggerated Up-And-Down and then grinned toothlessly at me. I cursed myself for having spent time on my make-up that morning and skulked behind the pole to avoid his gaze. Unfortunately, I couldn't hide my whole self behind the pole and as the conductor from Oogling Hell set his train in motion once more, he leered at me the whole way out of the station, head hanging out of the window and tongue lolling out of his mouth like some rabid dog.

So that's why this morning I was wholly prepared to flick off the next MTA employee who crossed the line. This time, it was at Broadway/Lafayette--again on the F train, which is apparently a haven for sex offenders and lunatics. I had put down my book once the train had crossed into Manhattan, having had my morning's fill of contrived John Grisham drivel. Staring out the window and preparing myself for the upcoming eight hours of cubicle-bound boredom, I tried to think positively about my morning. I wasn't running late today; My mom's blazer from the 80s looks great with these red patent leather mary-janes; my benchmate was not holding a Smirnoff this morning nor was he passing out on me. Things were generally going well. Until I looked up into the face of an MTA employee who, quite literally, pressed his face up against the window, crossed his eyes and made a monkey-face at me. A veritable, ugly-ass monkey-face--one I had not seen the likes of since second grade when the facial expression fell out of fashion. I was torn out of my blissful, half-awake morning state. I should say something! Get up and give the MTA Monkey a piece of my mind. Dammit, I will not take it anymore!

As usual, I spent the duration of the "Doors Open" plotting so desperately that by the time I had resolved on placing a choicely-worded complaint (the civil-minded New Yorker thing to do), the doors were closing and we were on our way to West 4th. That's fine. When I see a Monkey Face next time, I will remember it, and justice will be mine.


Thursday, October 5, 2006

Who knew that being green was so easy??

From a how to be green forum, posted by Paulboy, 7:13 A.M.:

"1. Get rid of the indoor bathrooms and use an outhouse, or at least urinate in the backyard.
2. Stop showering everyday — it’s really not necessary and unhealthy.
3. Wear underwear for at least three days (as does the average German male per a survey).
4. Play the guitar and sing more, and turn off the TV and radio.
5. Drink at home, stay out of the bars. Invite the neighbors over to join and converse."

Let's all get green, dirty and shit-faced.


Tuesday, October 3, 2006

Things I've Recently Discovered:

-Baked Doritos really ARE good. (And much better for you than Sunchips!)
-My Catholic father was once Jewish and taught at Temple (I find this out after 21 years of believing my father to be an Irish Catholic!)
-Those AA batteries on the subway may not be the mischief of one irate battery-vendor, but just the discarded batteries of subway riders. (I cannot quite accept this. I prefer to think of the battery-vendor.)
-Yoga is life. (Self-explanatory.)
-I may or may not be addicted to baked potatoes.
-Alex Jamieson and her husband Morgan Spurlock (of Super-Size Me! fame) live in my 'hood. (I interviewed her for an article I'm writing.)
-I miss Evanston a lot, but I actually like New York (finally).


Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Teddy Bear Picnic

Teddy Bear Picnic is probably one of the best songs ever. If that song can jump into my head at work at 5:15 pm and I can remember all the words, even if I haven't heard it for 17 years, you know it's good.

If you're looking for a particularly creep rendition, check it out here.


Thursday, September 14, 2006

Scenes on the F

There's a point in the F Line, between Carroll and 7th Avenue in Brooklyn, where for two brief stops the subway emerges from the dank, dark underground and teeters for what feels like hundreds of feet above ground. For this short moment, you can see an expanse of buildings and sky. But what's even better--when one peers toward Manhattan, the Empire State Building rises above the rest of the city, and when the passenger turns toward the harbor, the Statue of Liberty reveals herself for no more than ten seconds as the subway rattles along its elevated tracks. It's beautiful.

The funny thing is that, since I've noticed this unlikely New York attraction tour, I perk up as my car begins its ascent into the sun and sit up in my seat to look. No one--no commuter, no writer, no lawyer, no hipster, no begger, no child nor parent--turns to peer out the windows. That's the thing about New Yorkers. They are just not impressed by their city. Of course, if in the company of someone from outside the boroughs, they eagerly tout the beauty of Manhattan in fall, the up-and-coming nature of Brooklyn, the diversity of cultures and the numerous offbeat urban attractions, but when amongst themselves, the city seems ho-hum. New Yorkers are simultaneously bored and achingly pretentious about their home.


Saturday, September 2, 2006

Another Burrough, Another Time

So here's the deal.

I moved from Manhattan to Brooklyn, or more specifically, from Harlem to Windsor Terrace, aka: The Antithesis of Harlem.

Now, don't get me wrong. I liked Harlem, but I looove Windsor Terrace (so far). There's this quirky, half-"old-Jewish-retirees"/half-"young-hipsters" feel about this neighborhood, and I love it.

On the 31st, J and I moved all of our stuff through the Battery Park Tunnel (it took two trips in his sister's Suburu station wagon) and unpacked in the new place. I'm living on the second floor of a two floor building. It's more or less a single-family home and the Staten-Island-raised couple downstairs has rented out the top floor for quite a few years. I was a little worried about feeling like I'm living with some eccentric aunt and uncle, but so far I feel fine. What's more, this apartment is beautiful. Old, original furnishings and built-in cabinets, mirrors and cupboards. Dark, stained wood moldings and a gorgeous slatted, original wood flooring. Amazing. (The TOH intern in me is so excited. So excited that I'm uploading this picture of the apartment.)

J and I spent yesterday sleeping in til around 11 (we rarely get to do that anymore), whipped up some eggs with Tabasco sauce and then ventured into Windsor Terrace, bundled up in zip-up sweaters and our jeans for the bizarre weather. (I haven't seen sun for a week.) We discovered that little Windsor Terrace, a neighborhood that saddles up beside Propsect Park and hugs the edge of trendy-expensive Park Slope, has a little bit of everything. A corner coffee shop that faces the park, a $3 falafel place (woooohooo! totally had lunch there already), a tacquiera, a Greek-owned diner, a dodgy bar (Farrel's, with lots of old men in it at 1:30 pm on a Saturday watching horse racing. Legend has it that no women were served until Shirley MacLaine barged in with bf Pete Hamill in 1972 and demanded service. Legend also has it that this place has been around since, well during Prohibition.), Middle Eastern food, pizza, and, oh my, a Hallmark. I live a corner away from a grocery store, and two blocks from a laundromat. I also went running in Prospect Park, which is two blocks away from me, this morning. At night, we can hear concerts drifting over the trees and rooftops and into our open window--and oh wait, did you hear that, I said...TREES. THERE ARE TREES. Oh my goodness. I basically am thrilled.

The problem with living in Harlem is that there really is nowhere to go. Of course, you can hop on the subway and go a few stops somewhere to the UWS, but you can't just wander Harlem. Not that I ever felt unsafe. The drug trafficking at 116th and Manhattan Ave. where I was living has become a one-gang deal. The neighborhood's peaceful and the leader of these guys takes care of everyone in the neighborhood, particularly the elderly. Still, there were just the two bodegas and two barbershops on my block, and that was about it for entertainment.

I'm facing the inevitable disappointment of J leaving for Northwestern in exactly two weeks. It's hard not to be upset about it, but we both agree that we'll be fine, try to visit one another at least once and, really, I'll be so busy with working and LSAT classes and he'll be so busy with classes and another documentary, that this is the best quarter we could be apart.

Okay, time to venture back to Manhattan to visit J, who has been up since 5:15 am and working in a bakery. :(


Friday, August 25, 2006

Another Month Passes

Does anyone here watch Youtube regularly? I've decided it's freaker than Facebook. If you're looking for what made me really start thinking about this, delve into the videscapades of Lonelygirl15 and Danielbeast, which are now being documented by...the New York Times?


Yesterday at work, when one of those "rare" occasions of boredom passed me, I read almost my entire old livejournal...including comment posts. What really struck me was how much I posted after my freshman year of college and how many comments I received, lots from Kim, Heather, Bryan, Matt, Ryan, Jessie, Barrak, and others. I only now realize that in order to convince myself that college still existed that summer and that it hadn't had some wonderful dream, I needed to update my livejournal to stay connected (and, most likely, update facebook every other hour).

The weird thing is that now most of my lj friends either don't have accounts or don't update anymore, and well, neither do I. Sitting at work yesterday, I tried evaluating what that meant. That I'm more mature? That I have less time on my hands? That I don't need that conection to college because I know it's there? Or that I am convinced I've become detached from college in the last few months?

I feel somewhat isolated; and whether that's because I'm very different than many of my "acquaintances/friends" at Northwestern, or because I started dating my best friend (there's a fast route to self-containment), or because I up and moved to New York for six months, I don't know. Regardless, it leaves me feeling like when I go back for the last two quarters of college, I want to make the most of it, not lose touch with my friends, not let "classwork" get me down and just generally be happy.

For the meantime, however, I'm here in New York and I am enjoying it. I'm not out doing some of the crazy things that some of my friends are this summer, but that's okay because I needed to have this "unpaid internship" experience. I do love the feeling of getting off the subway at Rock Center and weaving through crowds on Sixth Avenue. I feel part of something much bigger than myself, and we all know that's a good feeling. I am looking forward to the magazine internship switch from T to YL in the coming weeks. Something fresh is in order for the fall.

To those of you from home who may or may not read this, thanks for inquiring about my house and my family. My parents put the house on the market about ten days ago and are hoping to sell soon. This will be a big process as we have loads of antique furniture which will probably not fit either spacially or decoratively in whatever house my parents buy. Yeah, it's stressful on my family and on me (it's hard to be in New York, uprooted from Northwestern, and know that at the same time, your home is being sold), but I guess this is all part of growing up.

As usual, I've wasted the morning and early afternoon hours of my Friday lounging around, exploring ridiculous websites and watching TV, so I should go venture into the city and do something fun.


Monday, August 21, 2006


New York has a funny way of making me feel very alone in a city of 8 million.

Of course, it doesn't help that the idea of my boyfriend returning to Chicago consumes me, the other interns at T have left, my house back in Ohio is now on the market and J gets scheduled to work nearly every day I have off... but still...

I finally accomplished two typical New York moments in one day last week. On Thursday, I left work early and attended a taping of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. One cab ride and one hot-dog stand stop later, I witnessed the glory that is Gnarls Barkley at Central Park's Summerstage.

I have never been at a concert with so many pot-smoking hipsters who don't like to move to music; hell, I'm from Chicago and I haven't even seen what I saw on Thursday. Dressed in torn jersey skirts, skinny jeans from Juicy Couture and face-consuming sunglasses, they came in throngs. The group in front of me, comprised of three girls and a guy who all looked about high school age but were passing for older with pot in hand, particularly caught my attention. One of the girls, who J insisted looked like Lindsay Lohan (except, in my opinion, cuter and with a better fake blonde on her hairs) sat down half-way through the opener and started reading "InStyle." The lone Alpha male devolved to an Upsilon somewhere between his neverending foot shuffles and continuous puff-inhale-cough-cough-cough's of the pot.

I don't know why, but back in Chicago I had built up New York--an unknown then--to some sort of chic-level where waify people cooly wafted through life with nonchalance and ease. How wrong I was. Maybe it's the summer heat, but I feel more pressure to look good going out for groceries or just to read in the park than I ever have before. My couture should include: a wrap-around dress (white, for me), bangly earrings--brightly colored, corresponding (but not exactly-the-same!) brightly-colored necklaces in multitudious strings, sandals that wrap up the ankle (these I don't have) or a pair of low-heels (sensible with colors!), and DO NOT FORGET--a wide-belt somewhere between the waist and hips. The formula is almost too easy.

I suppose I am not saying that much that is interesting in this post, but I am tired afterall and who knows, I might need to plan an outfit for Chicago next summer, when the New York 2006 trends hit the Midwest.


Sunday, August 13, 2006

The New York City Super

I have discovered another breed of being--The New York City Super.

The NYCS is not concerned with his job or the welfare of those he might otherwise save from jammed doors, frozen heaters or malfunctioning ovens. When his phone rings, he scans calls, recognizes tenants' numbers and silences the call. When he schedules appointments, he arrives no earlier than 45 minutes late, if at all. Upon his much-sought-after arrival, he wields WD-40 like Arthur's sword, leaving your apartment in a filmy layer of grease.

The NYCS is a force to be reckoned with.

This is my latest New York discovery. Last Sunday, after a relaxing afternoon in the Central Park sun, I returned home to discover our door no longer responded to my key. I twisted, pushed, pulled and yanked until I slumped against the wall in defeat, surreptitiously removed my bikini top from underneath my T-shirt and resigned to finally starting The Kite Runner, which had sat in my bag for over a week basically untouched.

When I could no longer take the saccharine Sunni and Shi'a allegorical friendship of Amir and Hassan, I stood up once more, gave the door one more try and, somehow, got into the apartment. J was already on his way home from work, having asked to leave early to help me get in or find a locksmith. While I waited for his return, dreading that he would be frustrated that I had already gotten through the door, I hopped in the shower which I had been dreaming of since I had left the park nearly an hour and a half before.

Now, really, as NYCS horror stories go, that's not all that bad. J and I figured a way to switch the automatic lock off and used the deadbolt to enter and exit our apartment with no incident--until yesterday.

As we gathered our stuff to go sailing in Larchmont, NY with J's cousin, Nick, we left the apartment, somehow switching the automatic lock back on as we exited. We realized this mistake almost immediately after it happened and started making the appropriate calls. First, Megan, from who we are subletting. Then, Curtis, our NYCS. Finally, Julie, J's sister, to see if "worst came to worst" we could somehow find our way to her Brooklyn apartment for a night's rest.

Fortunately, as our day wore on, we scheduled an appointment with Curtis (with Megan's help) at 11 pm, right about the time we expected to return from Larchmont. Despite all the wine we had drank and the lengthy trainride down to Grand Central (as opposed to the 125th and East River stop which J wanted so badly to get off at), we made it back to our apartment by 11:05. With no Curtis in sight, we tried the door and discovered he had been by earlier in the day to force the door open with the master key. Shocking. It didn't make much sense for Curtis to be coming back by, to maybe prove he had done his job or spray the WD-40 once more for good measure. But we decided to wait for him, pushing back our bedtime for the sup'. J called him twice while we waited, once when he was fifteen minutes late, again when he was a half hour tardy. Finally, at 11:45, I called from my line, which I figured he would not recognize and thus ignore, and demanded he come right away. He, it turned out, was downstairs, on his way in the building.

Curtis looked about what I had imagined Curtis Jackson would look like. Gruff, with acne scars and a patchy beard, his hair picked out to a small 'fro and shoved under a baseball hat. He wore what looked like a standard super uniform, mess pants and a button down shirt of a uniform blue that suggested prison or military service. He showed us what we already knew about the automatic lock and then went on to spray the lock box with his precious WD-40. The lock, he guessed, was probably not broken, probably just sticky. Thanks to my recently-gleaned This Old House skills, I knew he was wrong. The box had already come out of the door once, and I had screwed it back in. That spring inside the lock box had definitely come off its track or broken somehow else. Regardless, the lock box doesn't need a greasing-down; it needs to be replaced.

Curtis seemed a little surprised that a tenant would be talking at all about the anatomy of the door, let alone that it would be the chick who'd pipe up and tell him how she'd already fixed the door once. I blessed This Old House as he left us alone, promising to tell them that it did need replacing and it would be done Monday.

We let him know we'd give him a call on Monday, given that we'll probably not hear from him.


Tuesday, August 1, 2006


I've been bad about really letting you know what's going on in New York, so let me actually tell you. Let's start fresh, shall we?

I'm in New York! I've never been here before, and based on first impressions, don't know if I'll ever come back. But I'll give this city some time. I have yet to do so many things, I have no right to judge yet...

...and here we are in August. I'm still in New York. The furthest away from the city I've gotten was 44th St. and 4th Ave. in Brooklyn. I'm being patient with New York, but I'm not impressed yet. Granted, I'm a self-confessed cynic and Chicago-snob, so New York is playing to the tough crowd in me.

To catch y'all up on what these first six weeks have been like for me, I'll ramble a bit and then copy-and-paste the short updates I've been keeping--those are a little more concrete.

I work Monday through Thursday. T and everybody else thinks I'm babysitting on Fridays, but I'm not. Generally, I'm sleeping late and eating lunch and watching the Tony Danza Show. Not really, I hate the Tony Danza Show.

On the days when I work, I get up around 8:30 and shower, primp and shove some Cheerios in my mouth before I dash down the one flight of stairs of my Harlem apartment. On Monday and Tuesday J doesn't work and it gives me something sweet to kiss back in bed before I leave.

As I walk to the subway, I focus my energy on that particular New York attitude of mild non-chalance, or more likely, aggressive indifference. I often get comments from the Harlem Old Timers who sit on their stoops or their lawn chairs that they drag onto the sidewalk--"That's my babygirl!" or, "You lookin' fine today, Mizz!" or, "That's FBI right there!" and sometimes just a "good morning." I've gotten really good at missing the subway in the morning. I have lived my life in New York by the unused white Coffeemate on our kitchen counter. 9:37 used to mean "on time" for the B-Train, but not anymore. These days, 9:37 on the Coffeemate seems to mean "oh, you just barely missed the train again!" In the last ten days, I've caught the B-Train only once or twice. No matter--nobody arrives at work til 10:10 anyway.

The morning commute is tame. I'm usually half-asleep with either a magazine, book or my iPod keeping me conscious. However absorbed I appear in said object, I am spending half my time watching my reflection in the darkened windows of the subway car. Am I, sometimes I wonder, the only person who does this? I like to watch my crossed leg bob up and down with the sway of the subway--that's something you never get to see, just like you never get to watch yourself eat.

My building is connected to the Rockefeller Center stop. I scale the stairs and escalator and prepare myself for an awkward encounter in the elevator. The Brazilian consolate is on the 21st floor of the Bank of America Building. (TOH is on the 27th.) I usually get to hear lots of Portugese which I don't understand or watch some confused traveler try to jump onto the elevator to go down when it's still going up. By the end of the ride, I'm usually with one or two other T employees who I don't know that well and we joke about the Brazilian consolate to pass the last fifteen seconds of the ride.

After a full day at work, which I usually spend in true intern fashion half-checking my mail and half-writing/researching/fact-checking, I jump back onto the B-Train and head to Harlem. J and I have been known to hit the same train while he travels back from downtown, so that's always a treat.

Living with your boyfriend when you're only 21 is interesting. I can't imagine all those kids back home in "Ah'hia" who have gotten married already. I'm still trying to keep J from joking about penises and encouraging him to clean up his video games when he's done with them, so I can't imagine trying to work out taxes and diapers with him. I suppose I feel like I'm young, but it's really fun living with John and I'm enoying it.

When we both get home, we make dinner together. J prides himself on cooking meat, so I don't usually mess with that. We have a few traditional dinners--lemon chicken, "meat mulch" (a family favorite, apparently), pasta with porkchops, pasta with butter, hamburgers, and cheese and crackers with fruit (that's my influence). We sometimes drink wine (Pinot Noir), sometimes drink beer (Sam Adams), but we both like milk (non-fat) the best. We settle in with our dinners to watch some Wheel of Fortune or throw on a Seinfeld or Arrested Development episode. Then, we exploit the rest of our Netflix subscription by watching a movie almost every night.

On the weekends when J doesn't work, we lounge in bed til 11, eat and then lounge some more. Afterward, we'll go to the park. That's a nice lifestyle. On the weekends when he does work, he gets up so early that I sleep in and then I'm sad that we're not eating lunch and lounging.

In conclusion for catching up, here is my Facebook profile's "Week-by-Week Play-by-Play of NYC" as of now:

Week 1: Welcome to New York, or alternatively, Get Shivved in the Subway If You are White and 21 Week!
Week 2: Adjustment, or alternatively, Work Gets Boring.
Week 3: Adjustment, or alternatively, Harlem Gives CC a Lesson in Tattoo Art.
Week 4: Hot-Shot in NYC, or alternatively, Get Shot in NYC
Week 5: It's a Small World Afterall, or alternatively, J's Ex Lives Across the Street From Us.
Week 6: Meeting the Neighbors, or alternatively, Your Boyfriend Leaves the Door Open and the Neighbors Walk In and You're Naked.


Sunday, July 23, 2006

One month later...

Things in New York really don't change that much. I work, I eat, I watch Arrested Development, and I sleep. That's life.

There have been a few things of note in the last few weeks, however. Lately, I spend my free time (much of which is while J slaves away in the food industry down at SATC-infamous City Bakery on 18th St.) looking for a place to stay this fall.

I feel a tinge of regret about decided NYC was the place to be for fall quarter. J will be leaving me here alone come September, and I might be living by myself or with some 37-year-old guy with cheese for teeth. After the mild pang of what might be an infant-ulcer passes, I remember that the reason I chose to live in NYC for fall was one of independence. Let's face it. You start dating your best friend, live with him for all the time you're dating, hang out with and depend upon your friends, and know that your family is always there for you, and you start to wonder if you still have the muscles in your legs to stand alone. I think this fall will be a good experience for me. Maybe a quiet one at times, or lonely, but a good experience in the end.

New York seems to be a place where chance falls in your lap, or hits you with force in the head. I'll elaborate.

J's cousin, Nick--a 47-year-old investment banker with a wife and two teenage sons--took us out for dinner at one of New York's swankiest after-work restaurants. I ate until I hurt (I considered purging in the corner of the subway station while waiting to go home that night). He, upon noting that J and I are normal, responsible 21-year-olds, offered to take us on his yacht for the weekend to Nantucket. Unfortunately, a mild tropical storm befell Nantucket (and New York) and that will have to wait a weekend.

Julie, J's sister, invited us to the This American Life NYC office-warming party. At said party, we made the acquaintances of everyone from NPR's Iraq War correspondent, A (really, really nice), to B-the director of Capote who I was too in awe of to actually talk to. We also exchanged numbers with R, a condescending 20-something who recently released a book about his time spent in Baghdad. We promised to call one another before his book release party at a swanky club downtown. However, when the gin-and-tonic haze lifted the next morning, we thought better of our promises to R, and he must have done the same, for none of us called one another.

Last weekend, J and I took the advice of two Columbia professors we met at the NPR party and went to a swanky Harlem restaurant, Native. The thing about Harlem is that it's definitely stuck to sterotypes--old men on stoops, kids riding bikes up and down the sidewalks, fried chicken and people yelling "my nigga" all over--but it also is slowly becoming gentrified. This restaurant, tucked between a new bank branch and luxury condos, was also surrounded by rundown apartments and shut-down businesses.

Native's food was delicious, the wine even better, but in the midst of being served our entrées--three gunshots rang out down the block. People in the street screamed and ducked down, and our waiter quickly put down our meals and scuttled away.

It's a strange dichotomy here--people give you dirty looks because you're white or look slightly successful. (Hell, I don't even have a job, man.) But, once you've been in the neighborhood for a while, they adjust to you and say good morning rather than how they greeted you the first week ("You don't belong here, do you?").

Perhaps the biggest moment of chance falling in laps and bitch-slapping heads has been a trick of coincidence. J's ex-girlfriend, L, who I have met and like and who attends Fordham University during the schoolyear, emailed him a week ago. She had not emailed J in over six months, and last J knew, she was going to the south of France for the summer to live on a farm and work. Instead, she explained in her email, she was in the city. After a few more exchanged emails we realized that she not only still is living in the city, but she is living across the street from us. Literally. Here, see for yourself:

And now L is living with her new boyfriend/ex-professor, V. I'm something of a nervous wreck every time I go anywhere in our neighborhood now. I wear my sunglasses more often and am constantly looking twice at people around me. At the laundry mat, Is that one 30-something white guy V? At the grocery store, Is that blond ahead of me in line L? I better switch to another line...

Whether or not J and L meet up to have one of those once-we-dated lunches or something else is yet to be seen.

Oh, and in news to come, J and I may attend a Long Island beach party in honor of the birthdays of two gentlemen who are being filmed for an MTV reality series about rich, do-nothings and their travails. Look for us in the series premiere?

That's all from New York. Oh, except that I miss Chicago and desperately miss Ohio even more... or maybe visa versa. :)


Friday, June 23, 2006

Manic Update

I'd like to sleep in that city that doesn't do so.

I love my job. Enough to think that, Boy, working for T is so fun, I could do it for a long time. Honestly, salvage and interior decoration are pretty awesome.

Craigslist's "missed connections" might be my new favorite thing.

It sucks that I have to find another place to live for the fall in the same city I am in now.

It also sucks that I'm not making any money right now.

In Cold Blood is an addictive first read.

I'm pretty sure half the interns at T are not equipped with fully functioning social skills.


Thursday, June 8, 2006

Here I am, again.

I don't really use this anymore, but in a recent riveting evening of journal-comparison with J, I realized that it's pretty useful since it promises not to get lost in your closet or crash with your computer.

With that in mind, I'm updating.

I'm home for the second time after completing the six hour drive to/from Chicago for the third time in one week. (Talk about numbers and figures.) I find myself here, knowing that I won't sleep in my bed in Evanston until January and that I will, in two nights, be sleeping in New York...where I will be for six months.

I'm unnerved. Okay, no. I'm so upset and anxious that I cried for a long, long time Saturday night and then got drunk and cried more.

But I'm excited, too. I think.

This summer will be something entirely new. In some sense, even going to France last year, I've known what each summer after college would bring for me. I look back at my entries from this time of the year in my livejournal and I see similar themes. I'm moving out of the dorm and I'm getting ready to go home. Last year, when I went to France, I knew what to expect of the south of France. I had been there before, and besides, I'd spend the last month of summer at home again.

This year is different.I've never been to New York. Ever. Except on some bridge. Don't know which one.

I'll be living in a one-bedroom apartment with my boyfriend and best friend all summer. We will each work all the time and have no money, except enough to buy cheap wine and drink it in bed while watching DVDs on my new computer...cause apparently that's the plan.

That sounds

Then I remember that I'm twenty-one and this is a time that things begin to happen in life. And now they are, in fact, happening. And...that's fine.


Sunday, May 14, 2006

You know that the stress of apartment searching is weighing on you when you have a dream that you have two kids and nowhere to live in New York and you can jump through craigslist and into the real apartment itself. New feature, apparently.


Friday, March 31, 2006

21 and still going

Somewhere in the last few years, I've grown up.

Not completely, thank God, but I've definitely done some growing.

Perhaps I realized this when I received an email from my mom while in Paris that encouraged me to go participate in the student riots outside Les Invalides by hurdling into them with my new camera. Did she realize journalists were beaten during these things? Does she remember that two years ago she warned me about talking to strangers on the El?

It's funny that I will be gone fall quarter senior year. I think when I come back, I will feel as if I am already done with school and my last two quarters will be a last traipse about Northwestern.

It's funny how little I talk with some people and how much time I spend alone these days. I'm not depressed. I just finally have discovered how much I like being alone.

It's a good feeling, this feeling inside of me.


Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Lest I forget...

Last night I dreamt that I rode a gigantic seahorse in the Olympics.


Monday, March 6, 2006

Copy Cat Wildcats

Tonight I witnessed a girl present an idea that was mine, which I had brought up to her in confidence and later to a group, as her own. I was thoroughly disgusted. I thought that people stopped doing that in like seventh grade, but apparently not. It's sad that at a school like Northwestern you have to jealously guard your ideas, or if you don't, you won't get credited with them.

In one of my journalism classes here, our professor asks us every week we get an assignment if we have any ideas for a story lead. The professor, Alex Kotlowitz, is quite simply an amazing teacher and mentor (not to mention regular contributing writer to the New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker, PBS and NPR). Usually, when he asks this question, everyone casts rodent-like subvertive glances at one another and keeps mouths sealed. It drives me crazy--if we have the opportunity to LEARN!!! from one another and GAIN!!! from experience, WHY NOT?! Can't we respect our ideas so far as not to steal them from one another, and instead share...and if BY SHARING, GROW?!!!

So the last time he asked this question, I waited, waited, and finally said, "Yeah, I have an idea." It was the most releasing feeling, sharing that idea and knowing that it had spurred a class discussion and that, really, nobody in that class was going to run with it as their own or duplicate it. Instead, we all produced individual, unique works.

But really, in the real world, maybe it doesn't work that way. And from now on, I'll keep my mouth shut. I guess it's back to the Northwestern way--competition.

oh, and... someone stole my license plates... who does that?!!


Tuesday, February 14, 2006

the stand-up

Reporting Live for XYZ-TV but the Question Is, Why?

Oscar-nominated film "Good Night, and Good Luck" recalls a journalism hero from the early days of television news, Edward R. Murrow. Not only was he a giant of the craft, the movie shows us, but he also wore great suits and really knew how to hold a cigarette.

Many years have passed, though, since Murrow was riding high. Don't we need a new hero for today's tough challenges?

Were anyone to ask us — and, granted, no one has — our candidate might be a CNN reporter named Chris Huntington. On Sunday, the day of the big snow, he pretty much said on camera that some of what now passes for journalism in television can be downright silly.

In this age of Geraldo-style self-promotion, that acknowledgment qualified as nothing short of heroism. Mr. Huntington won us over when he went to Prospect Park in Brooklyn, and stood there as snow fell, to inform us that it was snowing. He seemed almost embarrassed to have to do it.

But such is the tyranny of the live stand-up, as essential to modern television as stage pyrotechnics are to Andrew Lloyd Webber. It is used even when the point being made is so obvious that no performance for the camera is needed. It is used even when nothing is going on."Well, Bud," the reporter tells the anchor on the 11 o'clock news, "I'm standing tonight in front of the courthouse. Nothing is going on because the place has been empty for hours. But earlier today ..."

With weather stories, it seems obligatory to make reporters stand in the rain or the wind or the snow to say little more than that it is raining or windy or snowing.

It is one thing to report on real people coping with a snowstorm like Sunday's — digging out their cars, shoveling sidewalks, waiting through long train delays or sledding in the park (a k a "a winter wonderland"). But to just stand there and say it is snowing amounts, some would say, to little more than look-at-us showboating.

Mr. Huntington, bless his soul, conceded as much as he reported live from Prospect Park during "Reliable Sources," a CNN show about the news-gathering business. The host, Howard Kurtz, asked him what he was "accomplishing journalistically" by getting snowed on. Mr. Huntington replied:"I'm so glad you've asked me that question, because every time we get assigned to do these stories, I always say to whoever will listen, 'Why in the world should anybody at home believe me or think that I'm an intelligent person if I'm going to stand out here in the bad weather and tell you at home that there's bad weather out here?' It seems to me that there's a certain sort of oxymoronic exercise that we carry out.

"For our money, he could have dropped the "oxy." But hip, hip, hooray. What he said was admirably forthright, even bold, given the widely shared ethic in certain corners of journalism that, in general, no matter what the news may be, the story should always be about us.

The devotion to needless theatrics came into sharp focus during the devastating hurricanes of last summer and fall. Perhaps the most laughable example was a stand-up in Florida that the NBC weatherman Al Roker did at the height of Hurricane Wilma in October. Until the fierce winds knocked him to his hands and knees and forced him indoors, Mr. Roker stood storm-tossed on the balcony of his hotel room, anchored by a colleague who held him tightly by the legs, out of camera range.

What was supposed to be the real story: Wilma or Al Roker?

At the time, Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida pronounced that style of razzle-dazzle "a little annoying."

"To see these characters on television reporting the news and putting themselves in harm's way doesn't do much good," he said, and added: "Creates a bad example, I think, for others. They think somehow this is fun. It isn't fun. It's very dangerous."

Those words came to mind Sunday night while watching the late news on Channel 7. A reporter went to Times Square for a live stand-up about four people who had endured electric shocks hours earlier when they stepped on a metal plate covering Con Edison wires with faulty insulation. Metal plates can be hazardous, the reporter said, noting that at that moment he himself was standing on a metal plate. D'oh!

Suddenly, standing in the snow to say it was snowing seemed almost sensible.


Thursday, February 9, 2006


A year ago today, I was officially accepted into Medill.

Two years ago today, I bought John and Brett for a date at the Willard Date Auction. I'm still waiting on it.

Two years ago today, Josh and Andy bought me for my Choose Your Own Adventure Date. They're still waiting on it.

Today...I am thinking about my future.

Maybe it's not journalism, I realize, sitting in the Uptown Snack Shop. I've become painfully aware of my bourgeois college existence while sitting in this tin and wood-paneled lunchette, listening to the regulars greet one another and wax nostalgic. The Shop is closing in two weeks, and these are its last days. I'm in the prime spot in the shop--the last booth in the L-shaped layout. "It's the big guys picking on the little guys, again," Karen, my waitress, tells me. I feel like hugging her, but feel so insincere scribbling down what she has said as she walks away. I glance up at the El as its 12:50 to 95th/Dan Ryan leaves the Lawrence stop and barrels by on its way to Wilson. A 20-something like myself walks by, in one hand a coffee cup from Borders and in the other, a cell phone pressed against his cheek. Disgusted with him, I look back at the shop where Johnny, a long-bearded wild-eyed 70-something, is standing up from his booth and declaring, "There's only one thing I like about Starbucks coffee--and that's its name! I don't like one other thing about it. Not one thing!" And again I'm compelled to write. Maybe it is journalism. I still don't know.

Today...I am thinking about my future.

Last summer I was in France, and for spring break, I will be there again. John and I will share a room in Paris, and probably stretch the bounds of getting-along to their limits. I will not be in France this summer. As I type, I should probably be writing more cover letters for internships that will occupy my time this summer. I might be in New York. I might be in L.A. I might be in D.C. I don't know yet, and I won't know for quite a while. I cross my fingers for New York and imagine a hot summer.

Today...I am thinking about my future.

I didn't know I could be this doused in...contentment? So comfortable. So happy.

Doused isn't really the right word to describe it, because if I were doused, then I would be miserable. Julie can tell you all about that.


Monday, January 23, 2006

"My Right to Roe" by Judith Warner

My Right to Roe
Judith Warner

With the confirmation of Judge Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court all but certain, it’s becoming accepted wisdom that Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision granting women the right to abortion, is likely soon to be reversed.

I’m not sure, though, that Roe really will be overturned by an Alito (and John Roberts) court. I’m not sure that it really is in the interest of the Republican Party to usher in a court that overturns Roe.I’m also not sure, at this point, that Roe really matters.

I’m exaggerating — somewhat — but let me explain what I mean.Decades of abortion-rights restrictions pushed through Congress and the statehouses by wily abortion opponents with the acquiescence — indeed, the encouragement — of the public have made the right to choose granted by Roe an empty promise for large numbers of American women.

This has been an unqualified triumph for abortion opponents and has put Republican leaders in an enviable position; even with a majority of the American public still solidly “pro-choice” (in the abstract), they can rest easy in the knowledge that, at this time, Roe is, in certain parts of the country, close to meaningless.

The restrictions on Roe include such things as forcing women to endure misleading state-mandated lectures when they seek abortions; making them spend time and money they don’t have driving back and forth to faraway clinics as they sit out state-mandated “waiting periods”; making doctors deal with labyrinthine regulations intended to make it all but impossible for them to provide abortions; making young women seek their parents’ or a judge’s permission for an abortion — no matter how fraught, dysfunctional or downright dangerous their relationship with their parents might be. (And show me the teenager who’s going to hunt down a judge to discuss the most intimate aspects of her personal life.)

Ever since Sandra Day O’Connor — hailed now generally as the swing vote who saved Roe — paved the way for the decision’s eventual evisceration by writing an opinion, in the 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey case, that permitted states to regulate abortion if those regulations didn’t place an “undue burden” on women, more than 400 new restrictions have been placed on a woman’s right to choose.

These restrictions seem right and common-sensical to most people. Wouldn’t most parents want to know if their daughter was to have an abortion? Should taxpayers be forced to pay for procedures they morally abhor? Isn’t it an abomination to violently maim and murder a viable infant in the womb?

I myself, a committed abortion-rights supporter, permitted myself to grow complacent about these restrictions in recent years. Like many other former donors to NOW and Naral Pro-Choice America, I let the abortion-rights issue slip to the very far back burner of my political thinking during the “safe, legal and rare” years of the pro-choice Clinton administration.

I became a mother during those years as well, and, I’m ashamed to admit, issues relating to motherhood and family life loomed much larger in my personal and professional mind than did bodily integrity and family planning. I, like just about everyone else in the country, was nauseated by the picture of late-term “partial birth” abortion painted by its opponents: images of scissors gashing through the heads of infants in utero, images of babies getting their brains removed by suction tube.

Intellectually, I knew that these depictions were a political manipulation by people whose true goal was to ban abortion outright. But emotionally, I played right along with their game.I didn’t even get all that worked up about Roberts and Alito — until last month, when I read Kate Michelman’s new book, “With Liberty and Justice for All: A Life Spent Protecting the Right to Choose.’’

Michelman is the former president of Naral, and that her book would argue for abortion rights is no surprise. But it does offer something else that is vital, which is why I’m writing about it today. It draws on stories, testimonials, letters and phone calls from Michelman’s years at Naral, and as a result, it gives a human face — many faces — to the impact of the aforementioned restrictions. And those faces — those voices — just can’t be ignored.

Take the testimony of Coreen Costello, a mother of two, who was seven months pregnant when she learned her fetus had a fatal neurological defect and had become rigid in the birthing position. She wanted to carry her to term and deliver her normally, but her doctors argued that doing so would put her own life in danger. After great soul-searching, she decided she was unwilling to take the risk of leaving her children motherless and allowed the fetus to be aborted through the kind of procedure long vilified by the opponents of “partial birth’’ abortion.

In 1995, when the Senate Judiciary Committee was debating an earlier version of the ban that went into effect in 2003, she pleaded with them to remember the humanity of the families put in the position of having to choose to end a wanted pregnancy. “We are the families that ache to hold our babies, to tame them, to love and nurture them,” she said. “We are the families who will forever have a hole in our hearts.” She survived the potentially fatal pregnancy and went on to have another child.

Another testimonial from Michelman’s book: The voice of Becky Bell, a high school junior who died of an illegal abortion in 1998 because she didn’t want to have to tell her parents that she was pregnant — and her state, Indiana, required parental notification or judicial bypass. As she lay dying on a hospital gurney, Becky pulled off her oxygen mask to speak to her parents. “Forgive me,” she said.

If these stories don’t shame us into greater vigilance about the effects of laws that we — the lucky, the privileged, the protected — allow to come into being because they don’t affect us, then nothing will.

If they don’t make us stop and ask ourselves what kind of society we have allowed ourselves to become, then truly we are lost.

If they don’t shake us from our tight-hearted complacency, temper our judgments about those less deserving and with-it and “responsible,” and inspire in us greater empathy for those who face desperate decisions, often alone, then we are irredeemable.

And to those who repeat, without cease, that abortion rights amount to state-sanctioned murder, I would say: remember Becky Bell.


Friday, January 6, 2006

Back to school

"There had been days and nights when the memory of their kiss had burned and burned on his lips; the day before even, on the drive to Portsmouth, the thought of her had run through him like fire; but now that she was beside him, and they were drifting forth into this unknown world, they seemed to have reached the kind of deeper nearness that a touch may sunder."

I always find myself coming back to this quote from The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton. There's something about her words here that just grab me. I think it's the image of fire in this impossible, maybe even unrequited, love; and the idea that sometimes we have to settle, that we can't hold onto flames.

It's been a long time since I've updated. Break ended. I miss home...a lot. It was so nice being with my family over this break and not working. I must be maturing (or maybe really boring) because I didn't argue with my parents and I wanted to stay in and be with them. There's something so reassuring after being thrown out into apartment/college/real world where you fend for yourself, essentially, to return home where your family welcomes you with hugs and maybe even some hot soup. In other break events, I probably saw more of fellow Northwesterner and Cincinnatian Grant than I did my home friends, which is strange but was fun. Fortunately, some of the home gang are considering coming up to visit Northwestern later in January.

Caught up with the Arles group in a semi-reunion over the last few days. How strange to see a group of people you could not escape for weeks in a brief moment of cake and making dinner.

It's late, and I should sleep.